VENUS AT HER MIRROR
VENUS AT HER MIRROR, DIEGO VELAZQUEZ, 1644, OIL ON CANVAS, NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON, ENGLAND
“You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting “Vanity,” thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for you own pleasure.”
— John Berger, Ways of Seeing
This John Berger quote is, again, highly applicable with regards to Diego Velázquez’s infamous reclining nude, The Toilet of Venus (1647–51). Seemingly enamored with her reflection, “woman looks at herself in the mirror; her identity is framed by the abundance of images that define femininity. She is framed—experiences herself as image or representation—by the edges of the mirror and then judges the boundaries of her own form and carries out any necessary self-regulation.”1 The woman engages the audience in the spectacle of herself as an object of admiration, making it acceptable to look at her as she is already looking at herself.
1. Lynda Nead, The Female Nude: Art, Obscenity and Sexuality, New York: Routledge, 1992, 11.